Any residential landscape can be designed to both conserve water in times of water scarcity and reduce flooding during storms. Homeowners can use green infrastructure approaches, like bioswales and bioretention ponds; rain gardens; rain water harvesting; water recycling; and drip irrigation to more sustainably manage water.
ASLA has created a new online resource guide on improving water efficiency through sustainable residential landscape architecture. The guide contains research, projects, and resources on how to better manage water at home. Developed for homeowners and landscape architects and designers alike, the guide is designed to help spread more sustainable and resilient practices.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates flooding has caused some $260 billion in damages from 1980 to 2013. And in the past decade, flood insurance claims now total $1.6 billion annually, putting further pressure on the already deeply-indebted flood insurance system. Sustainable landscape architecture practices — including green infrastructure — can significantly reduce the impacts of flooding on residences.
Homeowners also waste water by irrigating their lawns with water that should be reserved for human consumption. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 9 billion gallons of water is used for residential outdoor water use, mainly for landscape irrigation, some 30 percent of total residential water use.
Sustainable residential landscape architecture—if part of an integrated site design, a comprehensive approach to sustainable building and site design—can dramatically reduce water usage while creating a healthy residential environment.
Homeowners can promote the infiltration, storing, and recycling of water, and limit the use of valuable potable water for landscapes. Bioswales / bioretention ponds, rainwater gardens, and local sustainable water recycling and drip irrigation systems can all be used to efficiently manage water. Homeowners can recycle and reuse greywater (and even blackwater) for landscape maintenance, car washing, and toilet flushing.
It’s important to note that degraded and compacted soil will reduce water and air infiltration into the ground. Homeowners can maximize the benefits of natural stormwater systems by improving the quality of soil on their property though remediation techniques.
Homes that include natural green infrastructure not only better manage stormwater runoff, but also reduce the massive energy costs associated with running complex water management systems. Water and waste utilities are heavy users of energy and major producers of greenhouse gas emissions.